As though there aren’t enough crises in the U.S., mental health concerns continue to jump to the head of the line, and nowhere are these concerns more pressing than with our young people. With a pressing combination of the pandemic (with its isolation and loss), violence, social unrest, and young people’s own concerns about their identity, our current mental health system is not able to help everyone who needs it.
“In this country, almost one in threeyoung adults between the ages of 18 and 25 and one in four teenagers experience a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety. However, fewer than halfof young people who needed mental health care in 2020 received it. Even for those who are brave enough to seek help, it is still heartbreakingly difficultto get the timely, affordable care they need.
”The truth is staggering. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Surveycalculated that 31 million U.S. citizens don’t have health insurance, and even for those who do have insurance, there are more behavioral care specialists out of network or unwilling to accept insurance. Add to that the fact that almost four in ten citizens live in areas where mental health professionals are scarce, and the challenge intensifies. For young people of color, it is also hard to find someone who truly understands their culture and identity, as 83 percent of psychologists in the U.S. are White and 3 percent are Black.
So what is a nation to do if it wants to save its young people from the clutches of mental health problems? Without traditional avenues to care that many U.S. citizens experience for their physical health, many philanthropic partners have picked up the slack, offering programs to support mental health in schools, creating organizations to help youth in communities, and generally serving as a safety net for young people who need one.
According to Adnan Zai, an Advisor to Berkeley Capital, “There is such a crisis now that for anyone trying to even get in to seek help, the waiting times are lengthy. I think the government, private sector, and philanthropists can impact the vacuum either by making access to mental health more prevalent and providing funding to help cover the costs for people.”
And there are many philanthropists who are doing just that. “Philanthropist Mackenzie Scott recently made a number of gifts to a group of mental health-focused nonprofits. Her giving exemplifies how careful vetting of potential recipients and review of the compatibility of their goals and philosophies is a critical step in funding action that will effectively help young people with mental and emotional health challenges through the current crises.”
Many nonprofits are also collaborating to find the power of the team to make a difference. For instance, The Jed Foundation(JED), a nonprofit dedicated to mental health issues, joined the Path Forward for Mental Health and Substance Use coalition, a private-sector initiative designed to drive market-based improvements in behavioral health treatment and health equity for all citizens. By working together and sharing resources, these foundations are able to do more together than they can alone.
Many young people are on the precipice, and philanthropic people and organizations are a positive way out of the trouble for the young people in crisis and their families. Until medical insurance becomes more available to all, the kindness of strangers can step in to bridge the gap for young people who need treatment.